Energy Efficient Insulation Buying Guide

Insulation plays a major role in how much energy a home uses for heating and cooling. Effective, well-installed insulation not only results in a great deal of savings for homeowners, but also helps builders and remodelers provide greener, more economical homes.

Why Insulate?

Cost savings, more comfortable living environment, sound control, and healthier air.

If these things sound appealing to you, then energy efficient insulation is the common denominator. By insulating your home, you can save money and enjoy a more comfortable and healthier home.

Spray Foam Insulation

When it comes to air penetration and preventing heat and cold transfer, a closed cell, two-pound-per-cubic-foot product provides 98 to 99 percent efficiency. Customers looking for a less expensive option can go with an open cell, half-pound-per-cubic-foot spray foam, which is half the R-value. R-value measures the amount of thermal resistance that insulation provides.

Compared with fiberglass insulation, closed cell spray foam is three to four times more expensive — and open cell is two to three times more expensive. Homeowners who choose spray foam, however, can cut energy consumption by 50 to 80 percent in the first month. Therefore, many people make the money back in just three to five years. The huge advantage with spray foam is when you spray it in place, it fills and seals every crack..

Cellulose & Stone Wool Insulation

Although cellulose and stone wool insulation are not quite as effective as spray foam, both materials are relatively inexpensive and have a low embodied energy (the energy required to make the product). Cellulose is generally made from 90 percent recycled content — the kind of byproducts that would otherwise go into a landfill. Stone wool can also be made from recycled material.

The effectiveness of cellulose insulation is highly dependent on proper installation. If it is a large space, such as an attic, and the air barrier is already strong, cellulose can provide just as high of an R-value as spray foam. In small spaces or if the air barrier isn’t strong, however, spray foam is more of a sure thing.

Cellulose and stone wool require less energy to install. With spray foam, installers have to come back, on average, two to three separate times with different equipment. Cellulose simply requires a blower, and installation generally takes only one day for a small home. Stone wool is installed by hand and doesn’t require any equipment (other than a saw to cut it). It generally takes about the same amount of time to install as cellulose.

Rigid Insulation

Rigid foam insulation covers the entire home in a thin, continuous board that separates the exterior of the house from the interior. Although it’s mostly used in basements or wherever the home exterior meets the ground, many builders in colder provinces use it to wrap the entire building, which is called insulated sheathing. Although more costly, rigid insulation’s continuous surface can make a building much more energy efficient by reducing thermal bridges.

Besides lowering consumer energy bills, insulation can also become a major factor in gaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points. Staying on top of the most recent developments and exploring the available options will ensure a green and energy-efficient home, which benefits both homeowners and the environment.

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